A panel of three federal judges unanimously ruled Thursday that citizens cannot seek damages from private telecommunications companies that assist the US government as it conducts massive warrantless surveillance of American’s telephone conversations, e-mail correspondences and text messaging.

photo - d.hopkins

The panel from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against the Electronic Frontier Foundation and other plaintiffs who had sued the nation’s largest telecommunications companies because they were revealed to be cooperating with the federal government, which has been conducting massive surveillance on Americans since shortly after the terror attacks in 2001.

In 2008, Congress passed a law that granted immunity to the telecom companies, including AT&T and Sprint, making it impossible for citizens to seek relief in the courts for what many consider to be unconstitutional searches and invasions of privacy. Though, when running for the US Senate, Barack Obama promised that he would not grant immunity to the telecom companies for illegal spying on Americans, he was one of the majority of the Congress who voted to absolve the companies from liability for their cooperation in the surveillance program.